[OSM-legal-talk] Using OSM data without modifying - are there any guidelines?

John Bergmayer john at bergmayer.net
Mon Jun 29 15:00:41 UTC 2015

On Sat, 27 Jun 2015 17:55:08 +0200, Simon Poole <simon at poole.ch> wrote:

> A condition of having a valid licence to use OSM data is providing a suitable way of pointing out the conditions of use of said data to your users/customers/etc (which is relaxed a bit for produced works). Don't provide that, you don't have a valid licence with all the related consequences. If you have information that this obligation is not being fulfilled by distributors of OSM based products, please report it to the OSMF/LWG.

The problem being, of course, assuming there is no property right, there's only a contract, not a license. Contracts are not enforceable against third parties. 

A person who makes OSM data available without conditioning it on acceptance of the same contract, may indeed be in violation of *his* contract. But the people who take that data aren't bound by anything. If someone obtains a stash of OSM data, stripped of all attribution and legalese, then, upstream, someone may have violated a contract. But unless there's some sort of intellectual property right, people who obtain OSM data in this way aren't bound by anything.

This is why IP rights are so valuable! You don’t require a continuous chain of legal documents.  If there is an IP right, then if the licensing info is stripped off, then a user has no right to the data to begin with. 

On the other hand, if everyone is being a good actor and, when they are further distributing OSM data, attaching the ODbL, there is a contract.  But I’m not sure who the contract is between—a third party can’t enter into a contract on behalf of OSM.  So the contract would probably be between the third-party distributor and whoever takes the data from it.  However, OSM might be able to enforce that contract, as a third-party beneficiary.  (Third parties who are the intended beneficiaries of a contract can sometimes enforce contracts they are not parties to—this is very different than third parties being bound by someone else’s contract.)

[I’m a new subscriber to this list, so apologies if this message isn’t formatted or threaded properly.  Also, this is just based on US law and common law generally.  Details might be different in civil law jurisdictions. Finally, while IAAL, this is not legal advice, and no one reading this is my client. ]


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